‘Green’ needs transparency

April 2, 2008 at 7:40 pm (public relations, social media, strategy) (, , , )

Global EnvironmentAs companies put sustainability and environmental efforts at the forefront of corporate responsibility efforts, conversations stir about what it actually does to the image of the company. A recent article, posted on AdAge.com, reports that the Nielson Report shows that bloggers have a high impact and voice in discussing sustainability, including green initiatives in corporations. It talks about how bloggers are “a highly skeptical consumer group.” Bloggers are calling out companies that are forcing green efforts in key messages. The companies are over-exaggerating initiatives and often practice inconsistency and contradiction against what they are telling their audience.

I think public relations professionals of these companies need to provide consultancy about transparency and integrity. When talks of green efforts look fake and don’t coincide with actual practice, it negatively impacts the company. In a world where the digital community’s voice is so prominent, there is no way to get out of fake and unconvincing green initiatives. Corporate social responsibility is becoming so saturated with ‘green’ strategies that it no longer looks innovative, but is looked at more critically and sometimes scrutinized.

Another thing to point out is how poorly it impacts the public relations profession. People will often translate an incorrect and false image to public relations campaigns that went wrong. PR professionals need to be careful and make sure the company actually cares about its initiatives and stays transparent at all times.

Photo courtesy of Flickr: Al-Fassam [Online! :D]. It was taken under the Creative Commons License.

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E-mail management for the PRos

March 8, 2008 at 1:48 pm (development, public relations, strategy) (, , )

E-mail @ imageLet me just share some great news with everyone. I recently was offered a spring internship with Waggener Edstrom, which I ecstatically excepted (yay!). But this is not the point of my post.

During the interviewing process, every person I talked to emphasized the importance being skillful at e-mail in every angle. People probably usually think: E-mail, really? Isn’t it just sending a message? Isn’t it just another communication tool?

Yes, no and no. Yes, it is sending a message and it is another communication tool, but it definitely is not something that gets a “just.” For my generation, e-mail began as a fun way to connect with friends, which it still is. But now, it also is a tool for effectively communicating in a business, an industry and with clients and building relationships, especially for PR.

Brian Zafron’s post on Freelance Switch gives great tips for successfully learning the “art of e-mail.” Some of my favorites include: “brand with a meaningful subject line,” “don’t be a pompous jerk” and “brevity is key.” I’d like to add one to the list – manage your responses.

Here are my tips to managing your responses:

  • Organize your e-mail inbox into folders. You can stick e-mails you’ve responded to and ones you don’t need to respond to in the folders, so you can focus on the e-mails that need action. The uncategorized ones stay within the general inbox as a constant reminder for responding.
  • Flag e-mails by category. Microsoft Outlook and Entourage (not too familiar with Mozilla’s Thunderbird) allow you to color code flag e-mails. Flagging signifies that the e-mail is important, and the color signifies the category or importance (you can choose the one that fits you best – everyone works a little differently) of the e-mail. Plus, you can pull up all the flagged e-mails at once.
  • Respond to important e-mails immediately. The business world (and society) is extremely fast-paced, and for anything important, you must respond immediately. Even if you need to do a little more research, a simple – I will research and get back to you within 24 hours – will go a long way. Just don’t forget to actually get back to the person. It keeps the person informed and helps him or her know what is going on. It’s active communication.
  • Respond to not-as-important e-mails eventually. I would say the rule of thumb for responding to an e-mail is within 24 hours (probably 48-72 hours, if you get at least 200 e-mails a day). But this is only for e-mails that can be given some time before you respond.
  • Learn your e-mailers preferences. If he or she says – get back to me in the next day or two – you better get back within a day or two. Once you begin building relationships with the people you constantly e-mail, you’ll get to know how they work.
  • ALWAYS set up an automated response when you are out-of-town or out-of-commission and give another contact for immediate needs. It helps the person on the other side to know that they need to contact someone else, in the case of emergency.

These tips and Zafron’s tips are great starting points to writing and managing e-mails. Everyone works a little differently when it comes to organizing and writing. Start here and begin finding your ways to being a successful e-mailer.

Do you have any other tips for the PRos?

* Image courtesy of Flickr: labanderadeadiosayer.

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Airborne: thoughts of how the company is dealing with the false advertisement allegations

March 5, 2008 at 9:39 pm (public relations) ()

AirborneEveryone has his or her own tricks to overcoming or avoiding the common cold. For many, Airborne was the answer. In 2006, an ABC report sparked a lawsuit against Airborne on false advertising. Today, media are reporting that a $23.3 million settlement for refunding consumers has been made. Here are my thoughts on the good and bad things Airborne did in reacting to the allegations.

Good:

  • Responded immediately
  • Providing refunds – although consumers must show receipts
  • Revised Airborne Web site and packaging immediately to respond to “deceptive” wording
  • The health hotline gives consumers a place to ask questions about the product. I haven’t called it, but the concept shows that the company is listening and answering. It’s especially critical that Airborne directed consumers to physicians about further medical inquiries.

Bad:

  • Airborne trusted and promoted inadequate research studies. They should have renounced it as good evidence, once it was found that the trials were not run by scientists, doctors, etc.
  • Airborne is not taking responsibility of the false advertising. If the company is settling the lawsuit with refunds, it should not continue to deny any wrongdoing. It was a matter of ethics, and by not owning up, the company will always face the false advertising as an issue. Instead, Airborne should make itself accountable and move forward from there. It shows integrity and transparency.

I believe that in a situation like this, it is important for a company to face it, deal with it, be honest and then move on. It keeps everything simple and saves the image of the company by reflecting its values for its consumers and stakeholders.

* Image courtesy of Airborne.

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